WASHINGTON – President Bush's trip to Europe in February, during which he will seek to mollify critics of his policies on Iraq and other issues, will include a stop in Germany, the White House announced Tuesday.
Separately, The Associated Press learned that Bush administration officials are busy putting together a Washington visit for early next year by French President Jacques Chirac (search).
Chirac has been perhaps Bush's harshest European critic. Both sides are indicating now that they want to improve the U.S.-French relationship, and Chirac agreed to visit the United States in the near future, said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity because the details of the meeting have not yet been completed.
The Chirac-Bush session might precede the president's end-of-February trip to Europe but probably will follow it, the official said.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said a Germany stop on Feb. 23 has been added to Bush's already announced itinerary of Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 22 for meetings with NATO (search) and European Union leaders, and to the Slovak Republic on Feb. 24. There Bush has a session lined up with Russian President Vladimir Putin, also an Iraq opponent, and with Slovakian leaders, McClellan said.
"President Bush has stressed his desire to work with all of our friends and allies in Europe to promote global development and prosperity, to defeat terrorism and to encourage freedom and democracy as alternatives to tyranny and terror," McClellan said.
Bush also was expected to address at some point the European Parliament (search) in Strasbourg, France, a stop not yet announced by the White House.
The trip will be the president's first abroad after his inauguration for a second term in the White House. Jan. 20 is Inauguration Day.